Armistice Day–from Adam
I’ll readily admit that my friends are much more eloquent than I am on many issues. Here is what my friend Adam, a former DJ I adored in High School, had to say about Armistice Day. He sends a reminder email every year to his address book on the origins of Veteran’s Day.
As you probably know, Veteran’s Day was originally called Armistice Day. At 11:11 on 11/11/1918, the First World War came to an end. On that last day, despite the fact that it was widely known that the armistice began that day, generals sent 11,000 men to their deaths. 11,000 men,nearly home.
Armistice Day was later changed to Veteran’s Day to broaden the remembrance to veterans of all wars. Last year, I sent an e-mail at this time containing a quote from one of my favorite artists, Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut is a World War II veteran and ex-prisoner of war, whose birthday just happens to be 11 November. The quote I sent last year reflected his belief that this holiday, once it was broadened to be Veteran’s Day, ceased to be sacred. I will agree with him, and I always refer to this day as Armistice Day.
I find this holiday to be the most moving and important of all holidays, though it would be difficult to call it my favorite. I am no fan of the military as a concept, but extraordinary things have been done by those in the military for the rest of us. I have long struggled with this dichotomy, as with others, as those of you who know me well already know. Last year, PBS showed an hour-long program on Armistice Day about those awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor (“American Valor”). If they show it where you are, I encourage you to watch it. It will not be on in Richmond, but if you’re here and you want to see it, I taped it last year. In particular, the segment on Clarence E. Sasser is one that, I think, illustrates the very best of this country.
I don’t want to get into a diatribe on current events, or the foreign policy that our members of the military are executing or have executed in the past. Armistice Day should not be about recrimination—that’s what the rest of the year is for! For this day, let’s remember those who fought for our country (and otherwise served in the armed forces), right or wrong. Right and wrong are largely personal opinion anyway.
This year, I have a quote I’d like to share with you. This is by another of my favorite artists. The following are the lyrics to a song, “Day After Tomorrow.” I hope you are all well. I got your letter today And I miss you all so much here I can’t wait to see you all And I’m counting the days, dear I still believe that there’s gold At the end of the world and I’ll Come home to Illinois on the Day after tomorrow
It’s so hard and it’s cold here And I’m tired of taking orders And I miss old Rockford town Up by the Wisconsin border What I miss you won’t believe Shoveling snow and raking leaves And my plane will touch down On the day after tomorrow
I close my eyes every night And I dream that I can hold you They fill us full of lies, everyone buys ‘Bout what it means to Be a soldier, I still don’t Know how I’m supposed to feel about All the blood that’s been spilled Will God on his throne Get me back home On the day after tomorrow
You can’t deny, the other side Don’t want to die anymore Than we do, what I’m Trying to say is don’t they pray To the same God we do? And tell me how does God Choose, whose prayers does he Refuse? Who turns the wheel Who rolls the dice, on the Day after tomorrow
I’m not fighting for justice I am not fighting for freedom I am fighting for my life and Another day on the world here I just do what I’ve been told We’re just the gravel on the road And only the lucky ones come Home, on the day after tomorrow
And the summer it too Will fade and with it Bring the winter’s frost dear And I know we too are made Of all the things that we have Lost here, I’ll be 21 today I been saving all my pay And my plane will touch down On the day after tomorrow.
–Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan